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182 VEBDICT OX INDIA
which had sung itself into the head of a composer and been fixed
at the time ; he was warbling afc random. So were all the others,
The executants tcefe themselves the composers.
In, case this sounds confusing, let us illustrate it with the simplest
of parallels. It was precisely as though a group of actors had been
taught the general theme of Hamlet, assigned their roles, given a
few leading lines and then ordered to get on with the job. The
result is easily imagined. Hamlet would dilate somewhat in this
HAMLET To be or not to be, that is the question.. .that is the
question.. .to be, to be, to be ? Not to be ? Not to be ? Not to be ?
OPHELIA Here are pansies, they're for thoughts, pansies, pansies,
they're for thoughts...
HAMLET Whether, ah, whether 'tis nobler in the mind, the mind,
the mind, to suffer.
OPHELIA Pansies, pansies, pansies...
We need not pursue the indignity. It is enough if the point is
plain.. .Indian music is improvisation. And as such it is difficult
to see how it can be judged as a serious art.1
Consider some of the extraordinary facts which are revealed to
us as we delve deeper into this mystery.
There is no such thing as apiece of Indian music—a piece, that is
to say, which can be taken up and rendered by any artist in any
part of the country at any time. You cannot go into a shop and say
CI want X which was composed by Y/ for the simple reason that
Indian music is not printed; on the few occasions when it is set
down at all it is written in various forms of local hieroglyphics which
would be meaningless to any but the orchestra concerned. The
best you can do is to go to some individual musician and learn one
or two traditional themes (which are usually so primitive and
threadbare that they hardly deserve to be called 'Themes'), and
1Tbere are one or two important exceptions to tins rule, notably in ballet music,
where the precise movements of the dancers demand a similar precision from the
.orchestra. In ballet Indian music is. fixed. But since ballet music represents barely
one per cent of India's output, its existence cannot be regarded as invalidating our
flbDeral argument. ' ••